A New GTO Raises Confidence Level For Pontiac's Jim Yates Two-Time NHRA Pro Stock Champ Looks To Capitalize On Recent Performance DALLAS, Sept. 20, 2005 - After last Sunday's runner-up finish to Greg Anderson at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading,...
A New GTO Raises Confidence Level For Pontiac's Jim Yates
Two-Time NHRA Pro Stock Champ Looks To Capitalize On Recent Performance
DALLAS, Sept. 20, 2005 - After last Sunday's runner-up finish to Greg Anderson at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., Jim Yates is confident that his GM DRCE-powered Pontiac GTO Pro Stock Car is the real deal. Advancing to the title round in just his second race in the car, the two-time NHRA champion (1996-97) doesn't hesitate to mention that the new GTO has been a major factor in raising the performance level of his racing program. And although Yates may not have purchased his new Pro Stock Pontiac using the GM employee discount like thousands of other Americans over the past four months, his acquisition of the Jerry Haas-built GTO couldn't have come at a better time.
"We're extremely excited about the opportunities the new GTO presents for us," said Yates. "It's a tremendously stable car. The engineers at GM Racing who did the aerodynamic work on that car have got it to where it's so perfectly balanced that to drive it down the race track is a charm. It's a dream to drive, and on top of that, it's pretty fast. It's real smooth going down the racetrack and Steve Schmidt has picked us up some horsepower in the engine too. We were a top-half car all weekend long at Reading and we felt going into Sunday we could win the race. We came up a little bit short in the finals but we're excited about the potential this new car shows us."
Yates took delivery of his new Pontiac the week prior to the start of the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. With very little time to test and tune, it took four of the five qualifying runs at Indianapolis to nail down a competitive setup. But by late Sunday afternoon at Indy, the ambient air and track conditions made it difficult to post a time quick enough to make the lineup. Yates ended up outside the 16-car field in the 17th position with an identical elapsed time to No. 16 qualifier Erica Enders, but a slower speed by just .03 of a mile-per-hour.
"We struck on a combination on the last run at Indy and were fifth or sixth quickest in the final session," said Yates. "It was too little too late so we put the car through a vigorous test session at Budds Creek, Md. At Indy and at Budds Creek, we learned what to do to move forward and put what we learned to good use at Reading."
Yates qualified his new Pontiac GTO in the No. 5 position at Maple Grove Raceway, his best effort in Pro Stock time trials since the K & N Filters Supernationals at Englishtown, N.J. in June (he was the No. 1 qualifier at the season-opener in Pomona), and maybe his best, most consistent four full rounds of qualifying of the season. He then advanced to his 56th career final-round appearance and his first final since winning at Maple Grove Raceway in 2002, losing in the championship heat to Anderson's GTO by just .011 of a second.
"I don't think we'll find that extra .011 of a second on the starting line, that's for sure," insisted Yates after cutting a near-perfect .008 light in the finals against Anderson. "We had the starting line about as tight as we could get it. The car dropped off in the first 330 feet, the worst pass we had all weekend to the 330, but our GTO ran great speed and down the back half all day long.
"It was awesome for the team. Jamie, my son is the crew chief and he works very hard trying to give me a competitive racecar. With my other son Jonathan away at school, it's down to just Al Waters, me and Toni right now. We're a little short there with crew members, but Steve Schmidt's engine builder, David Amburgey comes to the track, works on the engine for us and he does a great job. We just try and focus on the car, and the good thing about a smaller team is that you know what's going on with the whole car. Jamie's been able to tune this GTO pretty well and I think he has a good handle on it based on the number of runs we've made. I'm really excited about the opportunities the new car presents for us."
With the tour slated to race again this weekend in the Lone Star State, Yates will have little time to relish his most recent final-round finish. He's won the Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis twice (1996-97), advanced to the finals in four consecutive years (1996-99) and captured the pole in 1996. Currently in 10th place in the Pro Stock points standings, "The Motorplex" is certainly a venue that has been friendly to Yates over the years.
"At Reading, we just slightly missed the combination and I think a big part of that is that we haven't been in the late rounds recently," explained Yates. "A track's going to change over the course of an afternoon. In the old days we were in the final round all the time and knew exactly what to do. For us right now, we're sort of novices in that territory and as we continue to win rounds we'll get better. We're quick learners and the final round is a nice place to learn."
GM Racing Pre-Event Track Facts
Greg Anderson captured his seventh win of the season at the NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa., on Sept. 18, and it marked the 157th all-time win for Pontiac in NHRA Pro Stock competition. Of the 157 wins in a Pontiac by a Pro Stock driver, Warren Johnson leads the Pontiac pack with 43, Greg Anderson is second with 36 and Jim Yates is third with 24.
The new Pontiac completely dominated the Pro Stock competition at Reading, Pa., capturing the win in an all GTO final round, earning No. 1 qualifying honors, running low e.t. of the meet and top speed of the event. Since the introduction of the GTO into NHRA Pro Stock competition seven races ago at Denver, the Pontiac GTO has claimed four victories, four raceday poles, run low e.t of the meet five times and top speed five times
With just four races remaining on the schedule, Greg Anderson leads the POWERade Pro Stock standings in a Pontiac GTO with 1,575 points. Kurt Johnson is in second place in a Chevy Cobalt with 1,399 points, Warren Johnson is in third place in a Pontiac GTO with 1,299 points, Jason Line is in fourth place in a Pontiac GTO with 1,252 points and Dave Connolly is fifth in a Chevy Cobalt with 1,127 points. For the 11th straight season and the 13th in the last 14 years, a Pro Stock competitor in a GM-branded car will win the NHRA championship.
Other Pro Stock competitors in GM-branded cars in the POWERade top 10 include Greg Stanfield (Chevrolet) in sixth place with 932 points, Ron Krisher (Chevy Cobalt) moves up to seventh place in a Cobalt with 907 points, and Jim Yates (Pontiac GTO) is in 10th place with 868 points.
Among Pro Stock competitors, Pontiac's Warren Johnson has the most wins at Texas Motorplex claiming victories during the fall event in 1989, 1998-99 and the discontinued spring event in 1997 and 1999. Chevy Cobalt driver Kurt Johnson is a three-time winner at the Fall Nationals posting victories in 1993, 1995 and 2000. Jim Yates won back-to-back wins at the Fall Nationals in a Pontiac in 1996-97, Greg Anderson won in 2003, Chevrolet's Dave Connolly is the defending champion (2004)and Mike Edwards won the spring event in 1998.
So far this season, competitors in GM-branded cars have won 18 nationals events, advanced to 34 final rounds and captured 17 No. 1 qualifying awards. Pro Stock drivers competing in Pontiacs have won 13 national events, advanced to 20 final rounds and earned 12 pole qualifying awards. Chevrolet competitors have scored five wins, advanced to 14 final rounds and captured five pole qualifying awards.
The 20th annual O'Reilly Nationals on Sept. 22- 25 at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Tex., is the 20th race on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour. Qualifying coverage can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, Sept. 24, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, Sept. 25, starting at 11 p.m. Eastern.